Queens, Nassau & Suffolk County Real Estate News

June 22, 2017

How to Prep Your Home for Summer

 

Summer is the sweetest season. But for homeowners, it can also be a busy time, full of improvements and repairs. Below is a list of preparations from Gold Medal Service that homeowners can do to prepare their homes for the summer.

Change air filters – Check your air filters every 30 days. During summer, air filters should be replaced every 30 to 90 days, depending on the type of filter you use. Dirty air filters reduce airflow through the system causing it to work harder than it should, while using more energy, resulting in higher energy bills.

Inspect window and door seals – Prevent hot air from leaking into your home through damaged window and door seals, or small cracks in the walls. Cheap materials like caulk and masking tape will go a long way to prevent hot air from entering your home and cool air from escaping your home. Good insulation will also help to keep your energy bills low.

Consider shades or overhangs for your windows – This will help to naturally cool your indoor space by reducing the amount of solar heat you let into your home.

Use your ceiling and/or attic fans – Moving air helps to remove heat from your home. Ceiling fans will help to reduce the thermostat temperature inside your home by about four degrees. Properly installed attic fans will also push the hot, trapped air out of your attic, reducing the workload on your HVAC unit.

Clear away debris from the air conditioning system's condenser – You have a condenser installed somewhere outside your home. Leaves, branches or any garden debris can easily build up against the system, which could cause problems in the long run. Remove any foreign material heaped up against the unit.

Clean the registers and ductwork inside the home – Make sure the registers inside your home aren't covered with carpets, furniture or anything else that will obstruct the air flow. Open each register and check for foreign objects like toys and pet hair that could be lodged in the HVAC ductwork. Use a flashlight to carefully check the surface of the ductwork for any signs of mold. Call a professional if you find signs of mold as it can cause respiratory distress and other health problems.

Schedule an annual tune-up – This is critical so technicians can catch minor problems before it becomes a serious, costly affair. A faulty system can emit harmful gasses, most notably carbon monoxide. Regular maintenance will not only prevent system failures, but also keep your family safe.

Mind your HVAC system's refrigerant – Homeowners with a cooling system that was manufactured before 2010, should be aware of the phasing out of R-22 refrigerant, an ozone-depleting gas used in older HVAC units. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of R-22 refrigerant, effective from 2020, due to the negative effect it has on the atmosphere. It will become increasingly difficult to find R-22 refrigerant needed for general maintenance of older HVAC systems, and prices will increase due to scarcity. Discuss your options with a professional if you have an older HVAC system.

Source: www.goldmedalservice.com. 

Posted in How Tos
June 19, 2017

Your Decor Secret Weapon: Books

 

 

Does your home need a design refresh? Look no further than your books!

According to the book decor experts at BoothandWilliams.com, using books is a fun, easy and creative way to personalize your home. Whether vintage or contemporary, big or small, books can help you create a theme, add a pop of color or make a bold statement. Here’s how:

1. Add a studious touch to your nursery (and encourage early readers while you’re at it) by grouping classic books from your childhood - think Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Dr. Seuss and Beatrix Potter.

2. Get creative with glass and lucite-topped tables by grouping books both on top of and below the table. Not only does this tactic add visual interest, but serves as a great space-saver as well.

3. Add some fashion-sense in the right spots by gathering a few biographies on designers, beauty books or photo books on famous fashions on your night stand or in the powder room.

4. Have a sunny kitchen-table nook, covered porch or sun room? That’s the perfect spot for a collection of gardening books or art books showcasing botanical prints, Monet’s gardens, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

5. Add a touch of masculinity to an office or man cave with books on classic male themes, such as sports, history or automobiles.

6. Make books part of the furniture by stacking them high next to your sofa or on top of a trunk or other prized possession. This allows them to not only become an attractive focal point, but a unique end table that you can top with a small lamp or frame.

7. Coffee table books are not just for looks - they can also serve as great conversation starters. Assemble books that are not only great to look at but that reflect your interests and passions, such as travel, music or history.  

Posted in News
June 17, 2017

Growth vs. Value Investing: Know the Differences

Your investing style and tolerance for risk can help determine what type of stock mutual funds you invest in. The two main types of funds — growth and value — have different characteristics that can match your investing style.

Owning a mix of both funds is probably a smart move, but it can still be worthwhile to understand how each fund works. Here are some short explanations of growth vs. value funds:

Characteristics

Growth businesses are likely to reinvest profits, instead of paying out dividends to shareholders, as a way to grow. Growth stocks can be seen as expensive and overvalued.

Growth stocks tend to be newer companies with products that are expected to be in high demand in the future.

Value funds are stocks that are undervalued by the market, meaning their prices don’t reflect their fundamental worth. They can trade at a lower price when compared to their fundamentals.

Value stocks can be undervalued for various reasons. An earnings report can have some bad news or a company may fall on hard times.

Measurements

Growth funds are expected to have faster than average growth in revenues, earnings or cash flow. They often have above-market price-to-earnings and price-to-sales ratios as higher sales and earnings justify higher valuations.

Value companies have lower-than-average sales and earnings growth rates, lower dividend yields, and lower price-to-earnings ratios.

Returns

Growth funds are expected to offer higher returns than the overall market when stock prices are rising overall, while underperforming the market when stock prices drop.

Value funds focus on perceived safety instead of growth, and often use their earnings to pay dividends. This allows value funds to provide more income than growth funds, though they can appreciate long-term if the market recognizes their true value.

Risk

Growth funds generally have a higher risk than value funds, and thus require a higher tolerance for risk, and a longer time horizon, than value funds. The increase of growth funds may not always be realized.

Value funds have the risk of possibly never realizing their intrinsic value. The market may have correctly priced such companies, preventing them from gaining in price.

Whichever investing style you choose, be sure to carefully study the companies you want to invest in and understand the fundamentals behind them before putting your money into them.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist who specializes in personal finance topics.

Posted in News
June 15, 2017

How to Be a Proactive Homeowner

When it comes to ongoing home maintenance, there are times when homeownership can be expensive—but there is no substitute for the sense of pride and comfort you achieve from living in a space that is truly your own. That said, it’s true that from the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or even  remodeled as you—and your family—grows, shifts and changes. But to be a proactive homeowner, you will want to keep an eye out for the small issues that could cost big bucks down the line—like, a crack in the foundation or a drafty window. Below are a few top tips for forward-thinking.

Take inventory
Get in the habit of taking an inventory at least once every year of every nook and cranny of your home to check for potential problems. Examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring—basically everything. Try to fix trouble spots as soon as you uncover them. This proactive approach will help you avoid larger expenses later on, so leave no stone unturned when taking inventory.

Budget accordingly

Some say you should expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows and routine system repairs and maintenance. An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Play it safe
Don’t assume that a problem will stay the same if left unattended. If your gutters are clogged, play it safe and unclog them to avoid leaks. Adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousand dollars.

For more real estate tips, contact me today!

Posted in How Tos
June 14, 2017

When You Celebrate Flag Day Tomorrow, Thank a Teacher!

Never has a piece of decorated cloth inspired so much pride, patriotism, and even controversy, than our American Flag. Each year, the United States celebrates Flag Day on June 14. Here are some points of interest about this important day.

The history of Flag Day dates back to 1885, when according to USFlag.org, it is believed school teacher BJ Cigrand arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes as ‘Flag Birthday’ on June 14 of that year.

Flag Day – the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 – was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916.

While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after President Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until August 3, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

The careful treatment of our American Flag is a revered custom among generations of military veterans, patriots, and conscientious households that proudly display it. Whether you fly a flag at your home or business, or are ready to adopt that tradition on Flag Day 2017, the History Channel promotes a few interesting points to remember:

  • Etiquette calls for American flags to be illuminated by sunlight or another light source while on display.
  • When flags are taken down from their poles, care must be taken to keep them from touching the ground.
  • When the flags of cities, states, localities or groups are flown on the same staff as the American flag, Old Glory should always be at the peak.
  • Flying the flag upside-down is not always intended as an act of protest. According to the Flag Code, it can also be an official distress signal.
  • Despite the preponderance of “patriotic” gear ranging from tee shirts to swimsuits to boxer shorts, the Flag Code stipulates that the Stars and Stripes should not appear on apparel, bedding or decorative items.
  • In the 1950s, when it seemed certain that Alaska would be admitted to the Union, designers began retooling the American flag to add a 49th star to the existing 48. Meanwhile, a 17-year-old Ohioan student named Bob Heft borrowed his mother’s sewing machine, disassembled his family’s 48-star flag and stitched on 50 stars in a proportional pattern. He handed in his creation to his history teacher for a class project, explaining that he expected Hawaii would soon achieve statehood as well. Heft also sent the flag to his congressman, Walter Moeller, who presented it to President Eisenhower after both new states joined the Union. Eisenhower selected Heft’s design, and on July 4, 1960, the president and the high school student stood together as the 50-star flag was raised for the first time.
  • Ever wonder how to correctly fold an American flag? First, enlist a partner and stand facing one another, each holding both corners of one of the rectangle’s shorter sides. Working together, lift the half of the flag that usually hangs on the bottom over the half that contains the blue field of stars. Next, fold the flag lengthwise a second time so that the stars are visible on the outside. Make a triangular fold at the striped end, bringing one corner up to meet the top edge. Continue to fold the flag in this manner until only a rectangle of star-studded blue can be seen.

I hope you enjoyed these interesting facts about Flag Day. Have some you’d like to share? Contact me today!

Posted in News
June 13, 2017

Advice for Grads: Act Like a Leader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newly minted college grads usually have one overarching goal: find a job. While most are understandably consumed with where to work and what kind of salary they may be able to score, some say that those first entering the workforce should also be thinking about how to become an exemplary leader.

"When you're looking for that first job, keep in mind that 97 percent of employers believe that leadership development should begin by age 21," says Jim Kouzes, coauthor along with Barry Posner of the sixth edition of The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations (www.leadershipchallenge.com). "If you haven't started your leadership development by now, you should. You probably won't be in an 'official' leadership position immediately, but from your very first day, you can set the example for others, inspire others, challenge yourself to improve, collaborate with others, and encourage others to do their best."

Kouzes and Posner emphasize that leadership is not about a title and delegating to others - it’s about relationships, credibility, passion and conviction, and ultimately about what you do.

"Everyone has the capacity to be a leader," says Posner. "It's not some mystical inborn quality. It's an observable pattern of practices and behaviors, and a definable set of skills and abilities. As one young leader told us, 'You never know where one step will take you. And you never know where the next one will lead. The difference in being a leader is that you take that step.'"

Kouzes and Posner’s research led them to develop the following Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®:

Model the Way. Exemplary leaders know that if they want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others. Eloquent speeches about common values, however, aren't nearly enough. Leaders' deeds are far more important than their words, so words and deeds must be consistent.

Inspire a Shared Vision. People talk about their personal-best leadership experiences as times when they imagined an exciting, highly attractive future for their organization. To enlist in a shared vision, people must believe that leaders understand their needs and have their interests at heart. Leaders forge a unity of purpose by showing constituents how the dream is for the common good.

Challenge the Process. Every single personal-best leadership case involved a change from the status quo. Not one person claimed to have achieved a personal best by keeping things the same. Leaders venture out. They also know that innovation and change involve experimenting and taking risks. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Try, fail, learn. That's the leader's mantra.

Enable Others to Act. Achieving greatness requires a team effort. Leaders foster collaboration and build trust. The more people trust their leaders, and each other, the more they take risks, make changes, and keep moving ahead. When leaders enable people to feel strong and capable, they'll give it their all and exceed their own expectations.

Encourage the Heart. The climb to the top is arduous and steep. People become exhausted, frustrated, and disenchanted. They're often tempted to give up. Genuine acts of caring uplift the spirits and draw people forward. Recognizing contributions can be one-to-one or with many people. It can come from dramatic gestures or simple actions. It's part of the leader's job to show appreciation for people's contributions and to create a culture of celebrating values and victories.

"There are many opportunities to make these five practices part of your life, while you're working at a temporary job, before you get a position in your desired field or even before you have a paying job at all," says Kouzes. "You can inspire others right now. You can encourage others. You can shake up the status quo and take some risks. These are the hallmarks of exemplary leaders." 

Posted in How Tos
June 12, 2017

Does Your HOA Have a Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan?

Wildfires can ignite anywhere, even beyond areas with drier climates. As a homeowner, understanding your risk is important.

Wildfire has become a topic of concern in homeowner community associations, a trend recently explored in the article “Where There’s Smoke” by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). In the article, CAI cites a record statistic: over 10 million acres were impacted by wildfire last year—more land than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined.

What’s more, the article states over 3,000 homes in the wildland-urban interface—zones adjacent to unoccupied land and therefore at risk for wildfire—have been destroyed each year since 2000. Several factors are fanning the flames, including climate change and development.

To stave off the threat, community associations are leveraging risk mitigation programs. Your association may be following guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise Communities program, which reduces undergrowth and tinder—fuel sources for wildfire—in residential developments. According to the article, mitigation steps may include:

• Clearing storm debris;
• Inhibiting landscape overgrowth; and
• Maintaining a fire break between residences and “native areas.”

Association policies, such as requiring water hoses or prohibiting charcoal grills, may also be imposed to reduce risk.

Obtaining sufficient insurance coverage—in addition to adhering to association policies—is crucial. The CAI article recommends you keep a digital inventory of your belongings in order to expedite the claims process should wildfire damage or destruction occur.

Seek out your association representative to learn more about your community’s wildfire risk mitigation plan. Discuss evacuation procedures and any other measures that may be enacted in the event of a wildfire.

For more information on wildfires, read the CAI article in full: http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In_the_Line_of_Fire/2507995/310123/article.html.

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)

Posted in News
June 10, 2017

Setting Up Your Surround Sound Speakers

When you move into a new house, there are numerous things you’ll want to do early on to get your house in live-in shape, and one thing you should think about early is setting up the surround sound system in your new home.

Techies love this sort of stuff, but not everyone is adept at understanding all the wiring and how to properly set up speakers and an audio system. While you could hire someone to come in and do the job, watching a few DIY videos on YouTube may be enough for you to handle it yourself.

One of the most vital components of the surround system is the speaker and the placement of the speakers around your media room is paramount in creating an ideal surround sound system environment.

Start by locating the “sweet spot” in your room where you will most likely be sitting to watch TV. Of course, multiple people watch at one time, and you might not always sit in the same place, but try to find the central area so you can work everything off of that area.

When it comes to setting up each speaker correctly, it is important to follow the display model. For example, the center channel speaker should be located directly above or below the display as the majority of the dialogue from a TV show or movie comes through this speaker. It’s recommended to place the center speaker as close to the television as possible while also being careful to angle the speaker towards your ears.

The front left/right speakers provide the off-screen effects and project all the stereo soundtrack information including the background environments. Avoid placing these speakers too close together to avoid a sound stage or placing them too far apart, which will create a large gap in the sound stage. It’s best to place them as close to ear level as possible. One common mistake is putting them in corners, but that will muffle their sound.

The surround speakers are primarily the area in which homeowners tend to mix up the most. Despite their name, they aren’t supposed to be behind you, and are actually best when they are set up directly on your left and right. Most experts recommended that surround speakers be placed approximately 2 feet above ear level.

TVs are getting bigger and better and it would be a shame to have the HD picture of your dream and just the standard sound emulating from the set. Invest in a nice surround sound system and feel like you’re at the movies every time you watch.

Interested in more real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly!

Posted in How Tos
June 5, 2017

Travel Protection to Expect from a Credit Card

Paying for a flight to a far-off vacation spot with a credit card not only earns you rewards points for free travel, but booking a flight with a credit card can also protect you with travel insurance.

From illness or a natural disaster interrupting travel plans to losing luggage or needing a referral for a local doctor while on vacation, many credit cards offer travel insurance for free to their members.

Here are some of the benefits they offer:

Trip cancellation insurance

If your flight isn’t refundable from the airline because you’re sick or have an emergency and can’t make the flight, then trip cancellation insurance from your credit card company may help. The insurance may also reimburse other travel expenses, such as hotel stays and tours.

Only about 15 percent of credit cards offer it, so call your credit card company first. Some limit cancellations to the death of an immediate family member or to a serious illness or injury that prevents you from flying. A few may cover weather-related delays, losing your job, and labor disputes affecting travel services.

Most cards offer up to $1,500 for trip reimbursement, with the highest at $10,000.

Lost luggage

The average reimbursement amount for lost luggage from a credit card company is $1,700. To be considered lost, you may have to wait 24 hours after landing before you can be reimbursed for your luggage and whatever was in it.

The insurance provider may require receipts for expensive items, and it can be helpful to take a photo of your stuff before you leave for a trip.

Rental car insurance

If you’re renting a car during your trip, chances are you’ll be asked at the rental counter if you want to buy the extra collision insurance it offers. If you’re paying with your credit card, then you probably won’t need it because your credit card already provides extra insurance.

While not all credit cards offer this, it’s worth asking your credit card company about. Your auto insurer may also cover your rental car.

Cellphone replacement

If your phone is damaged or stolen while on vacation, or even when you’re not on vacation, your credit card may buy you a new one. It may be limited to around $250, including a $50 co-pay, so don’t expect full coverage for a high-end phone.

Your monthly cellphone bill will have to be paid with the credit card to get the protection, and you’ll have to file a police report or other paperwork to prove the phone is gone. Don’t expect cash for a lost phone.

Posted in News
June 3, 2017

Childhood Identity Theft: Warning Signs and Prevention Tips

 

 

 

 

 

You may just chuckle and toss those credit card offers that come in the mail for your fourth grader, but there may be something more nefarious at play: identity theft.

 

According to the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group, one in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised. It all starts with the child’s Social Security number, which is then paired with a different name, birthdate and address to apply for credit. This is called a synthetic identity, and is very hard to detect.

 

"Using the stolen Social Security number, identity thieves can open credit cards, rent apartments, buy cars, secure jobs and apply for welfare or other government programs," says Trevor Buxton, fraud awareness and communications manager at PNC Bank.

 

PNC offers these warning signs that your child may be a victim of identity theft:

  • Notification by the IRS of unpaid taxes in your child's name.
  • Notification that a child's Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • Receiving collection calls for a minor child.
  • Receiving bills in a child's name for products or services not ordered or delivered.
  • Declined for government benefits because benefits are already being paid to another account using the child's Social Security number.

Fortunately, there are proactive steps a parent can take to protect their children from identity theft, such as:

  • Keep your child’s Social Security card in a safe, locked place at home; never carry it on your person.
  • Find out if you can opt out of providing your child’s Social Security number on school and medical forms. Many will allow the use of just the last four digits.
  • Shred all documents that show your child's personally identifiable information before throwing them away.
  • Most importantly, request an annual credit report for your child at annualcreditreport.com. Everyone is entitled to one free copy per year. Your child’s report should show no credit history at all. If there is a credit history, he or she has most likely become a victim of identity theft. Contact the credit agency and notify the authorities immediately. 
Posted in How Tos